You see them everywhere: ergonomic pens, ergonomic scissors, even ergonomic bras. But how ergonomic are they really?
A truly “ergonomic” tool will consider more factors than just padding on a handle. User anthropometry, work space design, task and usage as well as human capabilities will be taken into account to design something that works for the user.
This isn’t to say that all tools labeled “ergonomic” are bunk. If a tool is used for the purpose and environment intended, and by a person who fits the anthropometric profile, chances are the tool might actually be ergonomic. But that still doesn’t make the tool ergonomic for everyone or for every situation.
Currently there are no standards that a product must meet before it can be labeled “ergonomic.” So, while some products have gone through human-centered design and user testing, others may be labeled “ergonomic” only for marketing reasons. In the absence of any such standards, ergonomics becomes a “buyer beware” market.
Rule of thumb
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2003-10-01.